The magnificent 7
BOWLING GREEN – Tears. A smile. A fist-pump. Jumping up and down like a kid that just met Santa Claus. The celebrations may vary but the destination is the same – Columbus.
Specifically, the state wrestling tournament.
Seven area wrestlers let out a variety of celebrations after qualifying from the Division II district tournament in Bowling Green for next week’s state championships.
For six, it will be a repeat trip. Columbian’s Seth Williams, a runner-up last year, will be making his fourth trip to Columbus, while teammate Mason Correll is going for the second time.
Four Upper Sandusky Rams followed up their trips in Division III last year by making it again this year after the school bumped up to D-II.
The one newcomer to Columbus, Fostoria’s Luke Leonard, who says his trip is long overdue.
“It’s about time,” he said. “That’s how I feel about that. Should’ve been down there two times already. I finally put it
Leonard lost the go-to state match at districts a year ago. This year he wrestled his way to a runner-up finish at 126 pounds. Leonard earned his trip to Columbus after scoring a 3-2 victory over Adam Wilhem of Dayton Carroll before falling in the finals.
Leonard credited one thing for getting him over the hump.
“Offseason work,” he said. “My dad really pushed me. I went to a lot of camps. My dad spent a lot of money; my grandparents spent a lot of money. I have a lot of people supporting me. Coach helped out a lot. Dealing with him all week, he’s made me a way better wrestler.”
Leonard’s semifinal win wasn’t what he called a typical match for him. He picked up an early lead and rode it until the end.
“I’m the type of wrestler, when I go out I want to make sure whoever I wrestle never wants to wrestle me again,” he said. “That match, my nerves got to me. Once I got that lead I tried just holding on to it. I wanted to get state. I didn’t really wrestle like myself that match, but I’m glad I pulled away with the win.”
Columbian’s Williams showed why he’s the top-ranked wrestler in the 170-pound weight class. He took the mat only once Saturday, pinning Perkins’ Alex Tetzloff in the second round. He won his district championship match by injury default.
“I feel good,” he said after his semifinal. “My body’s OK, my wrist is healed up. I just did what I need to do.
“You can’t get overwhelmed, can’t let your emotions get to you. You just got to keep attacking, keep attacking and eventually they’ll break.”
While Williams is a favorite in just about any tournament he’s in and takes a straight path to the podium, Correll apparently likes to take the road less traveled.
Last year to get to state, Correll worked his way through the consolation match, winning five matches. It wasn’t quite as bad this year. Correll won a first-round match before dropping his quarterfinal. To get back to Columbus, Correll won his first three matches without allowing a point. He finished fourth place but gets a chance to get back to Columbus and climb onto the podium.
“Feels awesome,” he said. “It’s been my goal all year to make it to the podium. Now that I got there, I gotta bust my butt to get to the podium.”
His go-to state match was a a tight contest with Connor Rogers of Springfield Northwestern. The match was scoreless for two periods before Rogers gave Correll and escape point to start the third. Correll nearly got a few takedowns but couldn’t get another point. Still, he was able to hold off Rogers for the win.
“I was a little bit (frustrated with not getting a takedown), but I was focused and I wasn’t going to let him get to me or get any points off me,” Correll said.
For Upper Sandusky, Dyer and Kenner took the Correll-route, running through the consolations. Dyer went 4-0 Saturday to claim third place at 113 while Kenner went 3-1 and finished fourth place at 160.
Dyer said the road to his third-place finish was a tough one.
“Right off the bat I had to wrestle someone who’s already beaten me,” he said. “I just had to come out strong and I did. Next match was another kid that’s ranked higher than me. Had to wrestle tough for match too and I did. And then the last match, just had to do what I did the first two times.”
Kenner came into Saturday motivated after getting pinned during Friday’s quarterfinals.
“The slip up yesterday kind of gave me that boost of fire to come back and wrestle my way back, wrestle hard like I know I can do, place and go to state,” he said.
Mengerink and Pritchard started the day in the championship semis but each fell back down to the consolation bracket.
Mengerink came back with a pin and a major decision to take third place at 132.
“Just like normal, back at a regular tournament,” he said. “Just doing everything we do every weekend.”
Pritchard dropped his championship semifinal, but came back to score a 4-3 victory over Tyler Jacobs of Bowling Green. Pritchard fell behind early, but came back with a takedown for a 4-2 lead before getting hit with a stalling call.
“I was just trying to survive for a while,” he said. “Then I thought to myself about all those stories coaches told us about trying not too lose instead of trying to win. I changed my mindset after I went out of bounds one time. I said ‘I’m going to wrestle this one out. I’m going to win this.’ That’s what the difference was.”
Pritchard finished off the day with a pin fall to win third place.
Pritchard didn’t have the long way through the bracket like some of his teammates did, but his road to Columbus was maybe longer than anyones.
In the last game of the football season, Pritchard suffered a broken leg. After three months of rehab and hard work, his comeback is complete.
“It feels so good. You saw, it put me to tears out there,” he said. “All the stuff I went through, I worked harder than anyone in the state for two or three months just trying to get back. This feels so good.”